Augustine, one of the great Christian theologians who ever lived, died not long after the fall of the Roman Empire in 410 AD. There is a legend that says that he was once challenged by a pagan, who held up an idol to him and sarcastically said, “Here is my god. Where is yours?” To which Augustine replied, “I cannot show you my God, not because He doesn’t exist, but because you have no eyes to see Him.”
I think there are many who have no eyes to see God.
Of course, in one sense, nobody can see God. He is Spirit, and spirits are by nature invisible. He is holy, and for a sinful human being to try and see Him would be like trying to focus your eyes on the sun. God doesn’t seem to make very many personal, physical appearances.
Yet in another sense, it is possible for us to see God. You cannot stare at the sun, but you can see everything else by its light. You cannot see the wind, but you can see feel its effects. There is a way to see God, though it is like Paul writes in 1 Cor. 13:12 ...in a mirror, dimly…Like Moses we can catch glimpses of His glory, enough to know Him personally, to recognize Him as our Heavenly Father, to believe in Him as our Savior and Lord. You cannot see Him with your physical eyes, but you can see Him by faith through the eyes of your heart. Somebody once put it this way:
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is
essential is invisible to the eye.---Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
This morning I want to talk to you about how to clear up the vision of your heart, so you and I can see God better. To help us, I will focus on the words of Jesus found in Matt. 5:8.
Sometime back in March we bought a house in Florence that came with a pool so filthy you couldn’t see the bottom of it. We’ve been trying to get it to look like all those beautiful pools where the water is so crystal clear you can see a tadpole swimming on the bottom.
Purity and clarity are connected, not only when you’re talking about swimming pools, but when you’re trying to see God. This is why Jesus begins by saying Blessed are the pure in heart…=The happiest people in the world have a pure heart…What exactly does it mean to be pure in heart?
The word for pure= καθαρός from which we get our English word catharsis= a cleansing of mind or emotions and catheter, used for cleaning out the body. To be pure in the sense the Bible uses the word means to be clear to be unmixed or to be clean.
This gives us some clues to what it means to have a pure heart What is a pure heart?
A pure heart is a clean heart.
Ps 51:2, 7, 10 2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 10Create in me a clean heart, O God…
King David prayed this prayer after he had committed adultery and murder. He realized his sins blackened his heart with guilt, and he prays for God to purify Him. A pure heart is not a heart that’s never sinned (Jesus had the only one of those) but a heart that has been cleansed from sin and guilt.
Is 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.
A pure heart is a clean heart, but also
A pure heart is an honest heart. Like a spotless window pane, there is a transparent integrity to a pure heart. There is no phoniness, no hypocrisy, no pretense. There is a consistency between inward attitudes and outward behavior. Jesus called for this kind of purity
Mt 23:25-26 25“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
A rather arrogant man was teaching a boys’ Sunday school class; “Why do people call me a Christian?” he asks. After a moment’s pause, one youngster said, “Maybe it’s because they really don’t know you.”[i]
A person with a pure heart isn’t interested in keeping up appearances—what you see on the outside is what they are like on the inside. But also
A pure heart is a loyal heart. There is a pure devotion in a pure heart. Jesus makes this point brilliantly in
Mt 6:24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
A person with a pure heart doesn’t play the field; they stay on the same team. They’re not fair weather friends, but all weather friends. They can be counted on when you’re down for the count. Their love is loyal.
Put all of this together and you get a good picture of what Jesus means by the pure in heart.
A person with a pure heart is a person whose heart is cleansed from sin, a person who is real, not phony, and who is totally sold out to loving God. This kind of heart will see God.
I suppose this is a big reason why so many people rarely get a glimpse of His glory.
It’s easier to play religion than it is to be real with the Lord. Going through the motions really isn’t all that hard. Learn a few catch phrases, buy a big Bible, be nice for a few hours at church each week and you can go pretty far in the eyes of other people. But don’t expect to see God.
Nobody else sees our hearts. They don’t know see the stains our sins have made. Many of us are very good at hiding our wickedness. You can have a filthy mind, and a filthy heart full of guilt and you won’t hear anybody else condemn you. But don’t expect to see God.
You can pretend to love Jesus and still be in love with money, or possessions, or even yourself. You can try to play for both teams---heaven and hell—and feel like a winner. But don’t expect to see God.
A man dressed up as the devil was walking to a costume party when a downpour hit. To escape the rain he darted into a church where a revival meeting was in progress. When he walked in people began to scattered every which way to get out, all except one man who got it coat sleeve caught in the pew. As the man came closer, the poor fellow gave up, turned and said, “I just want you know I’ve been on your side the whole time.”
If you and I want to see God, Jesus says you’ve got to have a pure heart. You cannot see God until your heart is cleansed from your sins. You cannot see God until you get real with Him. You cannot see God until you give Him your whole heart. But if you have a pure heart, then the rest of this verse is yours: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
How will they see God? Will He come to us in a vision or a dream? Will He show up in Person, as He did in the Bible?
Probably not. I know we all think we’d like to see God this way, but I’m afraid most of us really don’t know what we’re asking. It would be terrifying thing to see God the way you see me right now. We would not survive.
Ex 33:20 …for no man shall see Me, and live.
But there are other ways to see God.
Perhaps one way of illustrating is the viewing of a solar eclipse. They tell us that if we just look up at a solar eclipse, it will permanently damage your eyes, even blind you. But they also tell you that there are indirect ways to view the eclipse that will be safer. I think there are safer ways you and I can see God.
How do the pure in heart see God?
Perhaps the most important way to see God is through Jesus Christ.
Jn 14:8-9 8Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
You need to think about what Jesus says here. He is not saying that He is the Father.
The Bible says God exists as three Persons in the Holy Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus isn’t saying He is the same Person as the Father. What He is saying is that when you see Him, you are seeing God, because He is God in the flesh.
If you want to know what God is like, Jesus says, look at Me. If you want to see how God feels see how Jesus feels. If you want to know what God thinks, see how Jesus thinks. If you want to know what kinds of things God does, watch Jesus. He shows us what God is like perfectly.
But here’s another hurdle: Jesus doesn’t make many if any public physical appearances. So how do we see Him? Through His Word, the Bible.
Of all the events that the Bible records, it records the life of Christ 4 times, from slightly different angles. It’s almost like a 4-D (instead of 3-D) picture, one where you can get the best picture of Who He is, and what He does. He shows up not just in the Gospels, but in the rest of the Bible, showing us in concrete ways exactly what God is like.
And yet so many people just can’t seem to see Him. They can read the same Bible, study the same words, and never really see Jesus or God at all. Why? Because they don’t read it with a pure heart. They see the facts and miss the truth, read the words but miss the meaning, never get past the letters to the spirit.
On the other hand, those with a pure heart see God in Christ as they see Christ in His Word and end up seeing God in a more personal way: they see God at work in their lives.
If you look through the eyes of a pure heart, you will see God answering your prayers. You will see His providence working behind the scenes, through all of those so-called “coincidences”. Somebody once said that coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous. You can even go out on a dark night, look up in the heavens, and the see the beauty of the Lord.
Ps 19:1-3 1 The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. 2Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. 3There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.
The pure in heart see God in the eyes of a friend who comforts them, they catch glimpses of His glory when they sing an old hymn, they hear His Spirit whisper to them when they give thanks for all He’s given them.
It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to. --C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain [ii]
The happiest people in the world have a pure heart that gives them a clear view of God.
Now if I’ve done my job as preacher properly, then you ought to be asking yourself how do I get a pure heart so I can see God?
You’ve got to start with a clean-up job—a job you cannot do yourself. You and I don’t have the tools to clean up our hearts. There is only one thing that can cleanse the heart of a sinner like you and I—the blood of Jesus Christ. You have to bring your black heart to His Cross, and believe that He died to cleanse your heart from all your sins. He cleanses our heart by faith, as we surrender to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
1 Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The only way you and I can have a pure heart is to ask Jesus to clean you up You will never see God until you first invite Him into your life to purify your heart.
But after this initial clean up that Jesus begins a more extensive purifying of your life, not from the guilt of your sins, but from the power and presence of sin. This is a cooperative effort between the grace of God and your faith and surrender. This process purifies your heart in two ways:
First by making you a person of integrity. Jesus wants us to be real with Him, and with other people. No pretending, no hiding, no follow-the-rules-with-your-hands-but-not-your-heart religion. He wants the inside to match the outside, for your love for Him and faith in Him to overflow into your behavior. If there is one thing Jesus showed little patience for in the Gospels, it was a religious hypocrite.
Secondly, love the Lord faithfully. He expects you to love Him enough to obey Him. He says your obedience is one of the most important ways you show that you really love Him.
Jn 14:15 If you love Me, keep My commandments.
It’s important to remember that Christ will help you become a person of integrity, and help you obey Him if you ask. But it is also just as important to remember that He never makes you do anything. You have to choose to become this kind of person, and rely on His help to have this kind of heart.
Can you do this? Yes, you can. You can have a clean heart, no matter who you are or what you’ve done. You can live a life of integrity, a life that is whole. You can loyally love the Lord. And when you do, you will see God.
Let me share a fable with you. Once upon a time, the surgeon sits beside the boy’s bed; the boy’s parents sat across from him. “Tomorrow morning,” the surgeon begins, “I’ll open up your heart... “
“You’ll find Jesus there,” the boy interrupts.
The surgeon looks annoyed. “I’ll cut your heart open,” he continues, “to see how much damage has been done...“
“But when you open up my heart, you’ll find Jesus in there.”
The surgeon looks to the parents, who sit quietly. “When I see how much damage has been done, I’ll sew your heart and chest back up and I’ll plan what to do next.”
“But you’ll find Jesus in my heart. The Bible says He lives there. The hymns all say He lives there. You’ll find Him in my heart.”
The surgeon lets loose his frustration. “I’ll tell you what I’ll find in your heart. I’ll find damaged muscle, low blood supply, and weakened vessels. And I’ll find out if I can make you well.”
“You’ll find Jesus there too. He lives there.”
The surgeon left.
After the operation, the surgeon sits in his office, recording his notes from the surgery. “... damaged aorta, damaged pulmonary vein, widespread muscle degeneration. No hope for transplant, no hope for cure. Therapy: painkillers and bed rest. Prognosis: death within one year.” He stops the recorder, but there’s more to be said.
“Why?” he asks aloud. “Why did You do this? You’ve put him here; You’ve put him in this pain; and You’ve cursed him to an early death. Why?”
The Lord answers and says, “The boy, My lamb, was not meant for your flock for long, for he is a part of My flock. Here, in My flock, he will feel no pain, and will be comforted as you cannot imagine. His parents will one day join him here, and they will know peace.”
The surgeon’s tears are hot, but his anger is hotter. “You created that boy, and You created that heart. He’ll be dead in months. Why?”
The Lord answers, “The boy, My lamb, shall return to My flock, for he has done his duty: I did not put My lamb with your flock to lose him, but to retrieve another lost lamb. That lost lamb is you. ”
The surgeon wept.
Later as the surgeon sits beside the boy’s bed; the boy’s parents sat across from him.
The boy awakes and whispers, “Did you cut open my heart?”
“Yes,” says the surgeon.
“What did you find?” asked the boy.
“I found Jesus there.”
That story is fictional, but what happens in the next few moments is real.
Whether you see Him or not, the Holy Spirit is here this morning, calling on you to come and get your heart purified. The reason why you don’t see God is because you haven’t invited Jesus to clean you up. The reason why you don’t see God is because you haven’t gotten real with Him. The reason why you don’t see God is because you haven’t been loyal to Him. This morning, you can see God, if you will come and by faith, invite Him to purify your heart.
The happiest people in the world have a pure heart that gives them a clear view of God.
Mt 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
[i]10,000 Sermon Illustrations, electronic ed. (Dallas: Biblical Studies Press, 2000).
[ii]10,000 Sermon Illustrations, electronic ed. (Dallas: Biblical Studies Press, 2000).